Date of Graduation

Spring 2018

Document Type

Honors Research Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Political Science - Criminal Justice - Track 2

Research Sponsor

Dr. Phil Marcin

First Reader

Professor Kimberly Hufgard

Second Reader

Dr. Terry O'Sullivan


This research paper begins by establishing the importance of studying the United States’ incarceration rate. Overall mass imprisonment and racial disparities in sentencing are two of the main concerns when discussing this issue. Previously published literature has indicated various contributory factors to the racial disparity in sentencing, such as judge’s discretion, educational attainment, and policy implementation. This paper tests five hypotheses that assess which factors influence the incarceration rate. The independent variables are overall minority population, public ideology, educational attainment, unemployment, and poverty. Each hypothesis predicts positive or negative relationships between the United States incarceration rate and the corresponding independent variable. Pearson correlations were performed to test for relationships. Also, an ordinary-least-squares regression was performed to determine which factors predict the imprisonment rate above all others. Results indicate that minority populations, unemployment, citizen ideology, and educational attainment positively and significantly predict the incarceration rate. Poverty levels were found to have weak correlations. Results of this project provide insight as to why the incarceration rate has been rapidly increasing.